Crank Up the Strikeouts, the Leiter Statement, the Best Pitching Orgs, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Crank Up the Strikeouts, the Leiter Statement, the Best Pitching Orgs, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I never played the video game, so I had only a general notion of what ‘The Last of Us’ is about. I went into the premier of the show pretty dubious about yet another zombie show, but I gotta say, they definitely hooked me.

  • The most strikeout-y team in baseball in the 30-team era, but the Cubs’ lead will be threatened if they don’t crank up the strikeouts this year:
  • If you were wondering, the Cubs were almost exactly middle of the pack in raw strikeout totals last year, with 1383 strikeouts (tied with the Angels for 16th, one strikeout behind the Rays for 15th, and only eight strikeouts behind the Mariners at number 12). That is more than I was thinking, even knowing that the Cubs were sneaky good on the pitching side last year. I didn’t expect a lot of strikeouts, given the style of the staff.
  • The Cubs didn’t add a ton of strikeouts this offseason, necessarily, but you could imagine the raw total getting a bump with more innings from guys like Justin Steele and Hayden Wesneski (and even Jameson Taillon is a bump over guys like Kyle Hendricks and Wade Miley), and maybe even more strikeouts coming from the bullpen.
  • Speaking of strikeouts in the bullpen, one guy the Cubs might lose is Mark Leiter Jr., a reclamation arm who wound up a near-30% strikeout rate guy after the Cubs fully converted him to relief. He was DFA’d last week to make room on the 40-man for Eric Hosmer, and I’m not so sure Leiter will clear waivers and/or accept an outright assignment if he does clear waivers. It would suck to lose him from the org, but the fact that the Cubs are in a spot where they can risk losing someone like him – because they have so many young arms available *AND* because they have been so good at unearthing guys like Leiter in the first place – says a lot about the state of the org.

This is a good indication of where the Cubs are right now. Is Leiter an impact arm who could change the course of a season? No. But does he have potential value? Certainly. The bottom of the Cubs’ roster is just better than it once was. That doesn’t mean they’re world-beaters now; they still need impact talent to get to the top of the league. But depth matters as well. Rather than spending extra money on role players, it’s important to identify and develop quality under-the-radar additions like Leiter.

Leiter made 31 relief appearances, and in 16 of those games, he got more than three outs. In years past, that type of pitcher would be absolutely vital for this team. But on this major-league roster, Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay both look like they could fill those roles. There are also numerous Triple-A arms who could emerge as similar weapons. That the Cubs feel comfortable with potentially losing Leiter shows just how deep their pitching has become.

  • While I was looking at the team strikeout stats, I noticed something funny from last season: check out the teams whose ERA outperformed their FIP by the most: Dodgers, Astros, Mariners, Cubs, Guardians, Rays, Yankees. It’s a who’s who of “top pitching organizations,” and I instantly wonder if that’s a coincidence, or if the best organizations are good at maximizing results relative to performance (in addition to getting the good performances, themselves). I peeked at 2021 to see if the same thing was true, and although the top orgs still show up in the top 12-ish, it’s not quite as stark. Ditto 2019. Kinda feels like there might be something there. And here’s hoping the Cubs stay up in that top group going forward.
  • This is the best way to share that the Red Sox signed catcher Jorge Alfaro:
  • Alfaro was on the border of getting a clear big league back-up job or a minor league deal, and he wound up getting about as good of a minor league deal as you can get (in an org where he has a very good chance of making the roster):
  • That is to say, even if you would’ve preferred Alfaro as the Cubs’ third option over Dom Nuñez, I doubt Alfaro would’ve preferred the Cubs’ situation, where he was not going to beat out a healthy Yan Gomes or Tucker Barnhart, and the Cubs aren’t going to carry three catchers.
  • Oh, I hope this makes for jokes aplenty:
  • A fresh Onto Waveland pod:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.